Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Buried Alive

The Iraq War is lost. Prepare for the Post-traumatic Iraq war syndrome syndrome, argues the an op-ed at the LA Times.

The consequences for the national psyche are likely to be profound, throwing American politics into a downward spiral of bitter recriminations the likes of which it has not seen in a generation. It will be a wedge that politicians will exploit for their benefit, proving yet again that politics is the eternal enemy of strategy. The Vietnam syndrome divided this country for decades; the Iraq syndrome will be no different.

The battle for interpretation has already begun, with fingers of blame pointed in all directions in hastily written memoirs. The war's supporters have staked out their position quite clearly: Attacking Iraq was strategically sound but operationally flawed. Key decisions on troop levels, de-Baathification, the disbanding of the Iraqi army and the like doomed what otherwise would have been a glorious war.

The American people seem to understand, however — and historians will certainly agree — that the war itself was a catastrophic mistake. It was a faulty grand strategy, not poor implementation. The Bush administration was operating under an international political illusion, one that is further discredited with every car bombing of a crowded Baghdad marketplace and every Iraqi doctor who packs up his family and flees his country.

There are several differences between Iraq and Vietnam. The first is that Iraq is a strategic country in the oil-rich Persian Gulf from which ultimate withdrawal is impossible. A redeployment perhaps, but a withdrawal no. The second is that unlike Vietnam, whose NVA had neither the inclination nor the capability to follow withdrawing American troops home, al-Qaeda already has. It proved that capability on September 11, 2001. The third is that unlike the Cold War, which consisted of proxy rivalries outside the homelands of the US and the USSR, the battlefield this time will be as close as Fort Dix or the JFK Airport.

The battle for "political interpretation", far from being dreaded by the Left, is probably anticipated with great eagerness. Here at last is the opportunity to round up the remaining survivors of the Vietnam War syndrome for final annihilation. After the hoped-for Iraq War syndrome, the US will finally be remolded. Into what the reader may imagine.

But only by portraying the domestic political component of the War on Terror as "divisive" can the Left proceed to launch it anyway. Without of course the intellectual opposition that might cause fractious debate. But if the debate so far has had any object whatsoever, it has been to promote division anyway. And so it will continue. At all events it is unlikely, now that the Internet has broadened the policy forum, that anyone will be given the chance to politically interpret recent events without opposition. But the main rebuttals will come, not from neo-conservatives, whoever they may be, but from events. The book will not close with Iraq, any more than the war on fascism closed with the Spanish civil war.

The problem with declaring an Iraq War syndrome is precisely that the war isn't with Iraq, and hence makes about as much sense as declaring a post-Guadalcanal War syndrome. The conflict is at least with al-Qaeda and the the theocrats in Iran or so those worthies themselves think. When an post al-Qaeda War syndrome can be studied, that will be the time to look back. And not before.


Blogger Boghie said...

It's always odd - and hard to listen too - to hear the screaming about the two, three, four+ wars of aggression that BusHitler started.

Even Hitler considered World War II to be one war, not twenty seven - and the Far East theaters had very little connection with the European or North African fronts. Some might even think that the Far East Theater was more distant in geography and strategy than Baghdad, Kabul, Somalia, Tel Aviv, New York, London, and New Jersey!

6/12/2007 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

The problem with declaring an Iraq War syndrome is precisely that the war isn't with Iraq ...

Not only is the war with Al-Queda and radical Islam, but increasingly, it's also with the world-wide Left. A vocal minority in England, France and America have declared war on the rest of us who don't buy into their "peace at any costs" mindset. I really don't think any sort of victory can be declared until the moonbats are somehow silenced or at least tucked away where they can't do any more mischief. And merely pulling out of Iraq will not accomplish that.

6/12/2007 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...


Even the Left has a threashold that once crossed means war...

The problem is that their threashold is in my kitchen...

6/12/2007 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger ForNow said...

Engineering an Iraq War syndrome has been part of the left's aim from the start.

6/12/2007 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

We cannot heal our nation without victory.

6/12/2007 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger rickl said...

If Iraq was a mistake, it was a noble one; an effort worth trying.

Democratizing the Middle East? Sure, by all means let's give it a try.

Because the alternative is pretty grim.

If there was a "mistake", it was believing that Islam is compatible with Western Civilization in the 21st century and shouldn't be utterly eradicated from the face of the Earth.

6/12/2007 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

The Left has been allied with the Islamists for some time. That is unmistakable. Why?

It has been suggested that it's akin to the Romans using Alaric the Goth as their slave army, or perhaps the Ottomans the Janissaries. Since neither could inherit the position of the privileged aristocracy.

Multiculturalism and the pro-communist left have been suggested as some grand conspiracy, or on lesser issues following a debased marxism. But neither Brezhnev nor Honecker nor Ceaucescu nor that Polish General Jaruzelski ever imported a slave army to subdue their own. They found plenty of takers among their own people to ensure their hereditary rule as kings and princes.

I think the debased Volk Marxism of the Left obscures things too much, the Left has made common cause with the Islamists because they fear for their position.

Post-Iraq Syndrome? When we are but a slip away from a "24" world. Lose a city, or even a stadium filled with football fans, and our present situation will be considered paradise. With the Left as discredited as the German American Bund on Dec 12, 1941.

6/12/2007 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger jafco said...

Nicely written, Wretchard. The effrontery of this piece is astonishing. Setting up a strawman: "...The battle for interpretation has already begun..." as though there are valid opposing views. Then comes the TRUTH: "...The American people seem to understand, however — and historians will certainly agree..." that now and in the future all agree that Bush was a total idiot and monkey.

All we can do is return strong Republicans to power in Congress and the Executive, and laugh at these - real - idiots.

6/12/2007 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Friedman said...

Well, we know what the "left" is going to do. For them, every day is Ground Hog Day. Question is, what are WE going to do? It won't do us any good to say the war is going well, or would be going well except for the obstructionism of the left. Neither is the case and the American people know it. If conservatives are indeed the political animals gifted with intellectual integrity, we better start discussing what went wrong and how we propose to fix it. And the time to do that is now, not when Congress and the White House are occupied by Hillary and the left.

6/13/2007 05:58:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

I see the problem as too many optimists on the right. When moving Iraq forward didn't proceed as swimmingly as taking Iraq over, many conservatives lost heart and the left was able to make political hay out of it.

As a pessimist, I predicted turning Iraq around would be much tougher than it has proved so far. The "mistakes made" have been reasonable ones to make and we adapt. There are no perfect courses of action in such a complex undertaking.

Bush set expectations realistically. Real progress is being made. It's time for the right to realize again that some worthwhile jobs are just tough.

6/13/2007 06:07:00 AM  
Blogger kmg said...

Don't give up. Victory in Iraq will be achieved in 2008, as per this article written in early 2006.

Don't give up before 12/31/08!!

6/13/2007 06:41:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

" . . . a catastrophic mistake."

Really? This is hard to take seriously. What Mark Steyn described as 'colonial policing' would go far smoother without all the institutionalized, navel-gazing doubt and hand-wringing, prompted in large measure by the Left's ludicrous hystrionics and simpleminded moral showboating.

One example: As incarceration facilities go -- especially wartime incarceration of combatants whose battlefield behavior exempts them from any protection at all -- Guantanamo is beyond exemplary. Yet, I'm led to believe that the halal meals and white-glove proffered korans really hide the U.S. version of Tuol Sleng.

With this meme fully established as a self-evident tautology upon which other critiques of the war may be built, we now have Colin Powell calling for Gitmo's closure, purely for symbolic reasons.

Part of the problem is the Left's reflexive resort to hyperbole -- which in the case of Iraq began with apocalyptic pre-war predictions that never materialized and a case of the vapors when our boys took a break during a sandstorm on the way to Baghdad -- and our failure to call them on it.

Which is why folks who endorse 'hate speech' laws, 'speech codes', the 'fairness doctrine', show trials of political opponents, firearm confiscation and other forms of totalitarian behavior can prattle on about Bush's fascist police state and the stifling of dissent -- on nationally televised news programs and in the pages of our nation's largest newspapers, of course.

We've done a pretty good job of challenging their control of the national discussion of things like illegal immigration. If we let them finish the first draft of history unchallenged, it will be our fault.

6/13/2007 07:22:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

P.S. Pardon the long comment.

6/13/2007 07:22:00 AM  
Blogger Dan Friedman said...

The Primal Mistake.

The Iraq war was won in barely three months. We had swept through the country like a hot knife thru margarine. Saddam was hiding in a dirt hole, his army and his regime was destroyed. The British & USA had the only organized armed forces in the country. There was no insurgency, militias, IEDs, Al Qaeda presence, Iranian meddling etc., etc. In short, this was the time for a full-scale WWII-style occupation - full control of the country by the allies. It would have been met with little or no resistance by the bad guys and much hope and relief by the majority of the population - who would have known they were safe and feel confident they could rebuild their country because America was in charge.

That's when Bush blew it. Instead of sending in more troops to do a relatively safe job - completely secure the vanquished country and establish our (temporary) rule - he began to give control back to Iraqis, trying to pick and choose between Islamic & ethnic factions, a game neither he nor anyone in Washington fully understands. Every problem in Iraq, and the region, we're experiencing today, as well as the political problems here at home, have their root cause in that historic mistake.

We need to recognize it, explore it, debate it and try to repair it, or it will haunt us for many years.

6/13/2007 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Fen said...

The Left is also at fault [and I'm not talking about their treasonous Copperheads]. Their hyperbole [War for Oil, Haliburton, Bush Lied!] immunized Bush from legitimate criticism and correction.

The relationship between the Left and Right in the US is like a marriage - both sides counter the weaknesses of the other [ie. Domestic strength vs Foreign Policy strength]. The Left had a responsibility to provide meaningful criticism, but instead wandered away into wilderness to have a nervous breakdown.

There's even talk in political circles that we should allow a Democrat to become POTUS, if only to force the Left to stop undermining the mission and buy-in to the war on terror.

6/13/2007 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Fen writes: "There's even talk in political circles that we should allow a Democrat to become POTUS, if only to force the Left to stop undermining the mission and buy-in to the war on terror."

I've heard this, too. And we also heard it before the last election -- punishing the Republicans and all -- and look what we ended up with.

What we'll likely get is a Dem POTUS in full retreat, to the applause of transnational nomenklatura. It never dawns on the 'reality-based' community why so many people around the world prefer weakness in American leaders.

Of course, to those who believe being well-liked is more important than doing the right thing, this will all be a net positive.

6/13/2007 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"The Left is also at fault [and I'm not talking about their treasonous Copperheads]. Their hyperbole [War for Oil, Haliburton, Bush Lied!] immunized Bush from legitimate criticism and correction."

This is one of the biggest reasons I hate the left. Bush may well have made some bonehead moves, but how can I easily tell for sure when the media space is so clogged with patently absurd, often false, uberhyped stories about flushed Korans and plastic turkeys? I only have so much time in my day to devote to reading news, and so my store of good, solid raw material on how Bush is doing his job is limited, more so because of the media's unchecked BDS.

Plus, ALL the shock value of ANYTHING political has been completely diluted by the constant yapping and screaming. Bush could probably appear on the roof of the White House wearing nothing but sunglasses and a smile (ewww) while handing a blank check to the People For Overthrowing the United States and people probably would mostly yawn at this point.

6/13/2007 10:02:00 AM  

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